Nigel Frith first attempted to describe his panhistorical thought in the Introduction to his novel ‘The Legend of Krishna’ in 1976. Developing out of Frith’s championing of past artistic and literary forms, ‘The New Renaissance’ as he named it, Frith conceived of a method of historical interpretation that threw off the shackles of materialism. Instead, Frith sought to understand historical processes through the workings of human sensuality and passion, represented in the epic tales of the ancient gods of East and West.
Frith’s Introduction to the ‘Legend of Krishna’ opened with the following:
“Do the gods exist? Some people seem to think so. Undoubtedly they exist as concepts. The idea of a glorious god of beauty, of the Muses and the sun, is an established concept in people’s minds to which we give the name Apollo; just as the concept of a fierce war-god and hammer-wielder is known as Thor. In some countries also the concepts of various gods have a strong influence on people. Thus the gods might not only exist as things in the mind, but have power. But can they exist outside the mind? I myself do not think so.
But admitting that, one has admitted nothing: for what is the mind? It is the region where lives the whole spirit of an age, where all actions are given birth, where everything is controlled. A concept such as political freedom has shaken the world in recent times. Perhaps this concept is itself a kind of god, spurring man on to a better life, a more responsible individuality.
The concepts of war, or love, or justice rule our own lives within the greater pattern. Perhaps these concepts are best realised and defined as gods. The nearer we draw to them, the greater the power they give us. We may well derive great spiritual benefit from reading about them and thinking about them, as gods. But religion has slowly dropped them, science done well without them, and art, feebly, now looks the other way.
I believe it is time we opened ourselves once more to the world of gods – not with superstition, but clearly recognising that we are dealing merely with fancies and merely for the purpose of wisdom and delight.”
By the late 1980s Frith had developed his concept of Panhistory in a series of ‘Pangaian’ novels. In an appendix to the novel ‘Olympiad’, published in 1988, Frith provided a more detailed definition of the concepts, literary conventions, and forms with which he works:
Appendix: The Homeric Epic and Pangaia
The epic form is the most serious and grand in all literature. It has been a tradition among the Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians, Hindus, Persians, Teutons and modern Europeans to seek to enshrine the origins of their culture in epics. The classic example of the genre is to be found in the epics of Homer. While his poems epitomise the heroic, grand and simple quality which is universal among the epics, they have a strength, beauty and fire which singles them out as perfect models for the revival of the epic form.
Homer’s epics have a structure that is ideally dramatic, and unites all the work in a single span. In the earliest section of the work they reveal a central and critical problem, which is the basic concern of the story. When this has been expounded, the epic turns to peripheral matters in an enrichening of interest. Around the halfway point, however, the epic returns to grappling with the central problem, advances steadily upon it thereafter, and reaches a climax of engagement just before the end of the work. This is the grid on which the famous epic actions such as battles, parades, journeys to Hell and prophecies are all ordered, and this has been the plan followed with some variations in the epics of ‘Pangaia’. In ‘Olympiad’ there is a similarity of book-numbering, since the twenty-four chapters mirror those of ‘The Odyssey’ in advancing in four book movements.
Homer’s epics have a style distinguished by objectivity, grandeur and universality. It is a poetic style that pictures everything at its maximum integrity and flavour, and concentrates on action unfolding in the light of timeless values. The narrative advances in clear and sizeable chunks. The scenes are conceived dramatically, the descriptions are dynamic, and the dialogue is structured by means of complete speeches. In the epic of ‘Krishna’ the dignity of style was played down for the sake of a folk-tale element. All the other epics attempt to maintain the style throughout.
An innovation of ‘Olympiad’ is the insertion of four poems, which use the ancient quantitative techniques of Greek metre. Homer’s own metre, the quantitative hexameter, is used for two of the poems, and these are in the traditional genre of pastoral songs and utterances of the Delphic Oracle. Later metres: those of Sappho, who gave her name to the lyric metre., and Pindar the great composer of odes on the Olympics, are used for a lyric and an ode, the ode being composed in the metre of Pindar’s ‘Second Olympian’. It has always been maintained by critics and writers of books of prosody that quantitative metres cannot be used in English. These four quantitative poems are the first ever published in the language, and could open up a new road for English poetry.
In Homer’s epics the principle of “celestial machinery” makes the action of the book take place on two levels. While the narrative action concerns men and is often tragic, the commentative action concerns the gods and is usually comic. The interaction of the two, with the gods influencing and directing human affairs, can be seen as a way of depicting human actions on a deep and universal level. This mytho-historical method discovers a divine drama behind the scenes of human history.
The name ‘Pangaia’ means the whole world from the Greek ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’, and the greek ‘Gaia’ meaning ‘earth’. It has been well used, in a different spelling, as the name of the first supreme continent from which in geological terms all present continents broke away. Used here, it can be taken as the name of the current world-civilisation, and a suitable title for a series of works on the origins and nature of the modern world.
An interview with Nigel Frith
In 2013, following the initial archiving project on Frith’s personal papers, Frith’s friend Robert Booth undertook a short interview with Frith to discuss Pangaia and panhistorical analysis. The interview took place in Frith’s home and made particular reference to his painting ‘The Secret’, displayed at the top of this page and in the Gods and Mortals gallery in the Artwork section. The video can be accessed through the link below.
Below can be found a selection of panhistorical materials produced by Nigel Frith. It is hoped that additional materials will be made available in due course.
Nigel Frith often produces works inspired by significant events in his life or in national and international affairs. Significant amongst this work is the poetry Frith produces to perform at gatherings marking these events. He has produced works for the birthdays of friends, for international events such as the Olympic Games or British Royal Jubilees, and for many other occasions, including the unveiling of his remodeled kitchen (see below). A compilation of some of Frith’s more recent ‘Public Poems’ can be accessed in the Nigel Frith Archive Catalogue section of this website.
Accessible below is a pamphlet created by Frith to mark the centenary of The Delhi Durbar in 1911 in which Frith attempts to explain the panhistorical context and significance of this celebration of Empire. The document includes a pen drawing of the Durbar, a Sonnet and explanatory notes.
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Accessible below is a pamphlet created by Frith to celebrate the renovation of his kitchen at his home in Oxford. Frith adorned his new kitchen with symbols redolent of Panhistory and invited friends and neighbours over to a grand opening of the kitchen, writing this sonnet and explanatory notes for his guests.